Ulster coach Brian McLaughlin has named a 26-man squad for the province’s Heineken Cup Pool 4 clash with Stade Francais at Ravenhill on Saturday (kick-off 1.35pm).
BJ Botha and Stephen Ferris return from injuries received on international duty to the Ulster squad as the province resume their quest to qualify for the Heineken Cup quarter-finals for the first time since 1999.
Justin Fitzpatrick and Phoenix Ulster Rugby Academy member Jamie Smith have also made Brian McLaughlin’s extended panel..
Commenting on Saturday’s game, Ulster forwards coach and former Castres coach Jeremy Davidson said: “On Saturday I think it will be very important for us to give Stade a warm welcome up front, in the early exchanges, so that we can set our stall out, against what is essentially a very strong international team.
“The players know they all have to play at maximum level, go out there all guns blazing for the full 80 minutes.
“If Stade get it right on the day, not only are they one of the best sides in France, they are one of the best in Europe.
“They are an exceptionally good team with world class players in every position. There is no room for errors in play or set pieces come Saturday.
“The Ravenhill crowd and their roar are of vital importance to the team. They give so much support and encouragement, we really need them to get behind the team from the very start and keep us going.”
He added: “It was very disappointing last week (against Glasgow), but we will put that behind us as a blip, now we have to pick ourselves back up, play as we can and hopefully go some way towards making amends.
“We have to perform this weekend, we know there is a strong team against us, but if we perform to the best of our ability, I feel we can beat any team.
“We are looking for a big performance on Saturday, then we will build from there, and start thinking about the return leg. Everyone really wants to keep our season alive in both the Heineken Cup and the Magners League.”
Ulster head into back-to-back Stade Francais games, which will see the Ulstermen travel to Brussels for the away leg next weekend.
Less than 1,000 tickets remain for Saturday’s home tie at Ravenhill. These tickets are available from the Ulster Rugby Ticket Office and Ticket Line (tel: 02890 493 222, Option 2) and from Ulster Rugby Ticket Outlets province wide. To purchase tickets online, please click here.
ULSTER Squad (v Stade Francais) – Backs (11): Jamie Smith, Clinton Schifcofske, Timoci Naugsa, Simon Danielli, Darren Cave, Ian Whitten, Jonny Shiels, Ian Humphreys, Niall O’Connor, Isaac Boss, Paul Marshall.
Forwards (15): Bryan Young, Tom Court, BJ Botha, Declan Fitzpatrick, Justin Fitzpatrick, Andy Kyriacou, Nigel Brady, Ryan Caldwell, Ed O’Donoghue, Dan Tuohy, Stephen Ferris, Willie Faloon, David Pollock, Chris Henry, Thomas Anderson.